Quick Tips: Investigated for Suspicion of Driving While In Possession of Drugs
Tip #1: When is a police officer allowed to search my car?
Generally, an officer will only be allowed to conduct a search if a warrant is issued and supported by probable cause. Nevertheless, there are always exceptions. An officer conducting a traffic stop will not need a warrant in order to search your vehicle if they can show probable cause plus exigent circumstances. An Exigent Circumstance exists when it is impractical for police to preserve the evidence if required to undergo the hardship of obtaining a search warrant. This element will exist where an examination of the facts demonstrate rapidly unfolding, unpredictable events that involve an inherent risk of loss or destruction of evidence given the mobility of the automobile. Does this sound like a heavy burden to meet? It is. However, police will often try to fool you into thinking this burden has been met, thus encouraging you to consent to a search. Don’t do it. Remain calm and polite but tell them you know your rights and they will need to get a warrant in order to search your vehicle.
Tip #2: Can I get in trouble with the law if I am a passenger and drugs are found/seized?
The answer is yes. As a passenger, do not think that you can get away with having drugs on you.
According to (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10), it is noted that whether you are in the front-seat or back-seat, you can be arrested for possession of drugs.
Tip #3: How are drugs classified in the State of New Jersey?
In the State of New Jersey, drugs are classified based on their risk for abuse. It is simple, the higher the risk, the more severely they are classified (N.J.S.A. 24:21). Below is the list of New Jersey’s scheduled substances:
• Schedule I: Extremely High Risk of Abuse (Heroin, Mescalin, LSD, Payote, Psilocybin)
• Schedule II: High Risk of Abuse (Opium, Cocaine, Methadone)
• Schedule III: Some Risk of Abuse (Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Morphine, and Codeine)
• Schedule IV: Low Abuse Potential (Barbital and Phenobarbital)
• Schedule V: Slightly Lower Abuse Potential (Morphine and Codeine in Low Concentrations)
If you are caught with possession of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug is a third-degree criminal offense that may carry a prison sentence of 3-5 years and a fine of up to $35,000. Furthermore, possession of a Schedule V drug is a fourth-degree crime that may carry a prison sentence of up to eighteen months and a fine of up to $15,000.
Penalties for marijuana possession are directly related to the amount that is found. For more information on the penalties for marijuana possession [N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(4)].
Tip #4: If the officer requests to search my car, do I have to consent?
The answer is no. We cannot stress the importance of enough, do not consent to a search of your vehicle!
Consenting to a search gives the officer approval to search even if he did not have probable cause. In other words, you are giving him the authority to do something that the law would not normally permit him to do. Ultimately, anything that he finds can be used against you because it was rightfully seized as per your consent.
Tip #5: What should I do if an officer asks me to step out of the motor vehicle?
In the event that an officer conducting a routine traffic stops asks you to get out of the car, you have to abide by the officer’s request. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the officer can search or seize anything illegal found in your car. Therefore, it is recommended that you abide by the following procedure when faced with this situation:
• Express your compliance verbally
• Turn your car off and take the keys out of the ignition
• Remove your safety belt and exit the vehicle cautiously
• Close and lock the doors of your vehicle
• Sit or stand where the officer asks you too
As a result of the outlined procedure, your car is protected from being unlawfully searched and will allow you to remain in control of who has access to your car.
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